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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

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282                               LIFE   OF
nations.    He therefore tarried with particular interest
among  Italians and  Spaniards,  and  he  spent some
years in investigations of the traditions of the Basque
nations.   When he had planned his first visit to Italy,
he anticipated greatly extending his knowledge of the
human races there.     He wrote to Schiller on this
subject, 12th of October, 1795: "As far I know the
nation   now,   it  must reveal much  original  natural
humanity, besides all its civilization, although, perhaps,
not in a very high degree, as the sensual faculties
seem to be principally developed.    It must be more
formless than any other nation, and therefore parti-
cularly adapted to reveal certain interesting features
of human nature; and in this I imagine it resembles
the ancients, and is, so to speak, their shadow/"9   Rome
itself seemed to Mm the embodied conception of that
past which so mightily occupied him;  and he con-
sidered   that   city   best   adapted   for   the   study   of
the history of the civilization  of the   human  race.
He expresses himself more forcibly on *this point in
his review of Goethe's Italian journey, which he wrote
in 1889.     The modern civilisation, he says, had to
raise itself on the spirit of antiquity, in order to com-
bine itself into a complete "whole,  and especially on
the spirit of the Greeks.    It can on the "whole be said
of Humboldt, who lived more in the sphere of ideas,
that he never entered exclusively into the consider-
ation of the present an^ nearest, but always kept in
view,  at  the  same   timae,  how  these circumstances
•would   be   if our   existence  were  inspired  by   the
strength of the ancients—if the current which carries
events forward had aorrived already at that issue to
which we look back with eternal longing.
When, he had retirexl from the official position
he liad entered upoiL, he at once devoted himself
jsealously to the studies which he had chosen for the
attainment of Ms object. Thus years passed on, which
he devoted almost exdusively to the Greek world*
Bmt Tbefore these yearsjwere passed, he had attained to
a for Boore profound comprehension of antiquity than